After reading this, I challenge you to think of a list of books that have made a difference to you. It’s up to you if you explain why or not but it’s a very pleasurable exercise reminding yourself of all your book loves! The hardship for me wasn’t in starting but in stopping. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of books that have had a profound impact on me. If I spent longer thinking I might want to swap books or add books depending on my mood but this was my list as it happened.
To Kill a Mocking Bird – Harper Lee
I read this book initially because I HAD to – it was a set book at school when I was about 13/14. Within the first three pages I was hooked. It’s so beautifully written that these characters are real to me. It was horrifying too though how man could be so evil to another man just because of the colour of his skin. It really impacted as to just how much we can miss if we aren’t open to what people ARE and not what they look like. I’ve had so many copies of this book. I’ve worn them out with reading and re reading or lending them to others because I want everyone to read it!
The Power of One – Bryce Courtney
It seems a lot of the books that have a profound effect on me relate to the subject of intolerance and prejudice which I just don’t understand. I think I was very lucky growing up in a very multi cultural society and I learned early to appreciate differences and look forward to them. Not to be suspicious or afraid. This book haunted me for a long time because the characters are just so lovable or pitiful that you keep thinking about them.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
I read this when I was very young. I just loved it. I loved the style of writing, the descriptions of life and school in those times and how different people were. Learning history is one thing, getting inside the minds of people who lived in the past makes it “real” and this was a book that made me think of historical figures as being real and having favourite foods etc. It was quite a profound thought at the time because I can’t have been more than 8 or 9 at most.
Pay it Forward – Catherine Ryan Hide
I read this before I saw the film and it struck me so much. It’s such a simple idea but you know what? It could work. It WOULD work if everyone did it. I know not everyone will but it’s something I try to do. It’s something I really believe in.
The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
One of the scariest stories I have ever read. I loved it and was terrified by it too and to this day, horror stories in this genre compel me. I can’t do blood and guts and gore. The psychological stuff is far more effective! It just stays with me and echo’s in my head.
We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will be Killed with our Families – Phillip Gourevitch
Quite simply – harrowing. Another story of total brutality and it’s consequences on ordinary people. I can’t say I “enjoyed” it but stories like these need to be read so we don’t become desensitized to the horrors of oppression and war.
The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank
I read this book when I was 9. I got it for my 9th birthday from my great aunt who I adored. It was the last birthday of mine she was with us for so it’s a particularly vivid memory. She encouraged me so much with reading outside my age range and I will always appreciate her input. I loved Anne. She was such a bright clever girl and so eager to learn and experience everything. To be locked up in an attic must be awful but she remained cheerful and optimistic. She was incredible. I was stunned at the end. Stunned that such a lovely girl was taken to a concentration camp just for being Jewish. Devastated that she died. I will always have a copy of this and I gave a copy to my daughter when I felt she was old enough to read it too. I’m very thankful it had the same effect on her. I must have done something right!
Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
Who hasn’t enjoyed all the Harry Potters and who doesn’t wish they weren’t a muggle?! Pure fun from an enchanting story teller with a deeper message about good and evil and how easy it is to stray from the path. Terrific for all ages which isn’t something that can be said of many books. Never forget there is much magic in life. It’s in how you treat people and the friendships you have.
The Bookseller of Kabul – Asne Seierstad
A view of a society that makes me delighted to have the advantages I do. You have to admire the courage and unity of these women and the realization that they too just want a better life. There is a lot to admire in their society which is easily forgotten with the more sensationalized aspects we hear of more commonly
A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini
Again, a book that just makes you realize that no matter what, under the skin, people all want the same things. The beauty of this book and the tragedies just don’t leave you.
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Another kind of prejudice – “intellectual” prejudice I suppose. You can’t help loving Lennie and hearing his voice in your head over and over again. The way Steinbeck had them speak to the reader is just compelling. You can’t forget them or what you learn from them – about yourself.
Keep the Aspidistra Flying – George Orwell
I loved this. It’s about a mans disaffectation with society and renouncement of it only to find eventually that he has to learn to compromise – which is a good lesson for anyone.
The Painted Veil – Somerset Maugham
Such a sad story. It was the second half which stays with me so much, as they start to appreciate each other and fall in love only to be parted so tragically. I wept inconsolably over this book. It made me want a love like that though. Appreciate what you have.
Forgotten Voices of the Holocaust – Lyn Smith.
We can’t forget. We just can’t.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
I had to read this. I felt compelled to try and understand WHY.. all I got was a history lesson as I still don’t and never will understand how people could foolow such an evil doctrine so enthusiastically. That haunts me.
Nella Lasts War – Mass Observation Project
This wasn’t the first Mass Observation Book I read but I love them. Reading how WW2 affected this lady and her family was about the best history lesson possible. It was reading as it happened not listening to stories repeated years later. Some of her opinions were scary. I don’t know if it was that generation or if todays people would think the same if Hitler and his ilk were in power now. That keeps me awake.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit – Judith Kerr
When your family leaves your home and everything behind so no one will know you’re going and you can’t even take your favourite toy… the effects of war on a young child.
Andra – Louise Lawrence
I read this during the school summer holidays and loved it even though it made me cry. Its haunted me ever since.
The Gnole – Alan Alda
Oh how I love this book! It has everything. It’s just a perfect book. I think of phrases from it constantly and I’ve been looking for another copy of it for ages.
Mr God, This is Anna – Fynn
A very young girl and her questioning God. It’s funny, it’s poignant. It will destroy you
Our Hidden Lives – Simon Garfield (More Mass Observation.)
I still think about all these people – they’re real peoples stories. Some give hope and others make you despair.
The Diddakoi – Rumer Godden
Prejudice isn’t always against colour. This is a book about how a little gypsy girl triumphs over the village yobs.
Sybil – Flora Rheta Schreiber
This book fascinated me. I know it’s been discredited now but it had value in that it opened my eyes. It took me off at a tangeant into loads more books on similar subjects but I always feel an affection for Sybil.
Nicholas and Alexandra – Robert K Massie
The Russian history leading up to 1914 fascinates me. I saw the film allegedly about Anastasia and then wanted to read more. It was all such a needless tragedy.
Rasputin the Last Word – Edvard Radzinsky
It amazes me how this man compelled so many people and really went a long way in assisting the downfall of the Russian monarchy. He was probably the straw that broke the camels back.
The Little World of Don Camillo – Giovanni Guareschi
Hilarious little books. I read these when I was at boarding school (bloody nuns!) but along with Mister God this is Anna.. I learned that prayers didn’t need to be formal.. that you could just speak to God. Mans rules are just that. MANS. MY relationship with God is between me and him and that was a pretty good lesson to learn.
As with everything else in life – I just don’t know when to stop and I know there are so many books I’m going to regret not putting in here.